Dramatic Jailbreak in Ramadi; Sunni Arab Bloc Splits

Sunni fundamentalist guerrillas in Iraqi government custody staged a jail break in Ramadi on Friday, when a ringleader grabbed a guard’s gun and shot him, then released other prisoners. In the subsequent melee, six Iraqi policemen were killed and 7 of the escaping prisoners were. Three persons described as “senior al-Qaeda operatives” escaped. Ramadi is in al-Anbar, until 2007 the most dangerous place in iraq, with hundreds of attacks every week. The tribal leadership and Awakening Councils have much reduced violence there.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that in the wake of the forced resignation of the Sunni Arab speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Mahmoud Mashhadani, Sunni Arab politics in Iraq has been thrown into disarray. The largest Sunni Arab bloc, the Iraqi Accord Front (al-Tawafuq), has split. Khalaf al-`Ulyan has decided to leave the IAF to join a non-sectarian coalition.

Sunni Arabs boycotted both the federal parliamentary and the provincial elections in January 2005, in part out of rage at the US destruction of Falluja. In December of 2005, however, they competed for seats. Several smaller parties joined together as the Iraqi Accord Front, which had a fundamentalist Sunni religious orientation, analogous to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The main components were the Iraqi Islamic Party of VP Tariq al-Hashimi (the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood); the National Dialogue Council of Khalaf Ulyan; and the General Congress of the Iraqi People of Adnan Dulaimi. Al-`Ulyan called for the resignation of (Kurdish) President Jalal Talabani and condemned the execution of Saddam Hussein. He has been arrested by US troops, and has said that the US is in Iraq on the sufferance of Iraqis.

Al-`Ulyan’s National Dialogue Council will join the Sadrists, the Islamic Virtue Party (Fahila), the Front for National Dialogue of secular nationalist Salih al-Mutlak, and the National Iraqi List of Ayad Allawi. Allawi’s list, with 25 members in parliament, has apparently been working IAF members in hopes of detaching them and getting them to defect to the new coalition, which opposes distributing government posts on the basis of ethno-sectarian identity.

Al-Hayat says that the split in the IAF weakens the Sunnis and strengthens the four-party alliance that rules Iraq (the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Islamic Da`wa Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party). The split may also affect the fortunes of the IAF at the ballot box in the upcoming provincial elections. There is a lively competition between the Iraqi Islamic Party, the leading element in the IAF, and the “Awakening Councils” or Sons of Iraq, the tribal levies founded by the US military to fight radical vigilantes that Washington terms ‘al-Qaeda in Iraq.’